Up All Night's Season 2 Premiere: Life Changes (Or Gets Re-Tooled)

By Price Peterson

Sep 21, 2012

Up All Night S02E01: "Friendships and Partnerships"

When Up All Night first premiered, I devoted probably too much of my review to ranting about how the show had been nearly ruined by re-tooling before it'd even aired. The original version sent to critics two summers ago was edgy, sardonic, and downright grounded, but what premiered on NBC was a comparatively cartoonish, lower-stakes trifle that was nonetheless redeemed by its charming performances and (maddeningly infrequent) laugh-out-loud moments. At the very least Up All Night still had the potential to turn into something great; unfortunately, over the course of 24 episodes, it never did. At its best, Up All Night's first season was breezy and occasionally clever, but at its worst, Up All Night was a waste of time. Too many of the show's characters behaved like jerks and too many of their problems were solved by their wealth or fame. The worst part was, Up All Night remained just good enough to maintain its season-pass status on my DVR, so out of all the shows I made time for each week, it was consistently my last choice. "Watchable but not a priority." —Price Peterson, TV.com

Anyway, I bring up Up All Night's pre-Season 1 re-tooling because the same thing has happened all over again! That's right, apparently that first set of changes didn't get the desired results, so it was time to flip the script yet again, but in the bluntest, least inspired ways. Season 2's premiere "Friendships and Partnerships" made those new changes immediately clear with a winking cold open involving Reagan and Chris remodeling their bathroom. Not only had they hired Reagan's brother Scott—a new lead character—to do the labor, the actual demolition was interrupted by Ava, who breathlessly arrived to announce that her talk show had been canceled. Yes, the SAME talk show shoehorned into Season 1 because of its supposed comedic possibility. But, if you recall, Season 1 suggested that Ava's show had been doing pretty well, so when this episode didn't even bother to offer an explanation for how Ava could have its plug pulled overnight, it was like Up All Night didn't even TRY to come up with a humorous reason. Not a one-liner, not a cut-away joke, nothing? Was the writers' room tired that day? Anyway, Ava is now no more, and the seemingly permanent absence of Missy didn't even merit a mention. So, okay, fine. Season 2 is a reboot!

Except... Up All Night still felt like the same show, only worse. I don't know if there's ever been a less funny, more muddled episode of this show than "Friendships and Partnerships." It involved the same tired plot (Ava and Regan fighting, then making up), plus some stuff about Chris wanting to work for a living. The whole thing was so sluggish and uninteresting that I straight-up could not remember why I'd watched all 24 episodes of Season 1. Did I misremember how funny it was? There's a chance this episode was more concerned with setting up the new realities of Up All Night's characters than it was with knocking our socks off, humor-wise, but come on, guys. You're better than this! Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph still brought their A-games (a bit involving Ava kissing random babies and then adults at the park was the episode's only true highlight), but Will Arnett looked distressingly thin, over-bronzed, and seemed less and less committed to playing the relatably awkward new dad he used to portray. As Scott, Luka Jones is likable—but so far he's totally pointless. Sort of a poor man's Chris Pratt but without the energy or punchlines.

If there's one hope for Up All Night now that it's shaken things up a bit, it's that the characters' new trials and tribulations might actually seem stressful and identifiable. Back before Ava was a talk show host (in the version of the pilot that I'm increasingly convinced I may have dreamed up), she was a demanding, sort of dickish boss to Reagan, and it felt like there were real stakes when Reagan had to decide between work and family. After Season 1 turned them into besties, none of their squabbles ever felt real or consequential (including in this episode, when they temporarily broke up as friends and it was as implausible as Chris's new Bob's Big Boy haircut). Hopefully some kind of workplace tension can be brought back to the show, either through Chris and Scott's new construction company, or whatever new pursuits Reagan and Ava seek out. But dang, it's Season 2 and I'm still hoping this show becomes something better? Get it together, Up All Night! I am firmly in don't-care territory and that bums me out.

What do YOU think of the changes to Up All Night Season 2? Are they for the better, worse, or do they even matter?

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  • MeganMoore4 Oct 02, 2012

    Wow that review was terrible. Personally, I love Up All Night and even though you say you don't remember why you even watched season one, I think it's just getting off to a slow start. Regardless of that, though, I still enjoyed the first episodes.

    Also, IMO, Will Arnett looks better than he did before. I think in the second season he will become more of a superiority figure within the familty instead of being the stay at home dad like before.

    ..give this show a chance. :)

  • Mantis82 Sep 29, 2012

    During the summer I tried to watch this show, got through first 10 episodes, after that it just felt like work to watch it. I actually got annoyed and it made me watch Arrested development again just to recover.

  • quarkmac Sep 26, 2012

    Actually, Will Arnett (to me) is starting to resemble his season 2 incarnation of Gob on AD. I think him getting back to his fightin' weight more closely resembles Gob from that season (and his hair, too). As much as I enjoy UAN, he seems to be more Gob-like in preparation for Season 4 of AD.

  • DavidJackson8 Sep 25, 2012

    I'm basically in the same boat. I watched all of last season, but Up All Night was probably one of the five shows I least liked of those that I regularly watched. It was never particularly good, but it also wasn't bad enough to put me off. I may stop watching soon... it wasn't very fun in season one, it's not very fun now.

    Also, I keep getting distracted by the skinner, more bronzed, gelled-up hair Arnett. And not distracted in a "damn, he's hot" way... more of a "he looks odd to me, and not in a humorous way" way.

  • maxpower212 Sep 25, 2012

    Yeah, what was up with Arnett? And that hair? Last season had enough funny moments to keep me hooked, but we'll see about this new season.

  • reasonating Sep 23, 2012

    Yes, I too was underwhelmed by the changes, and pretty much have felt the same way about the show as Price. I think it's okay. I have enjoyed the occasionally funny moments enough to put up with the filler, but it was never the first show I watched on my DVR playlist either. This show always had a fairly uninteresting premise, and these new changes don't really seem like they will do anything to overcome that inherent weakness.

  • torque_smacky Sep 22, 2012

    Retools mid-series are never a good sign. I've never seen a show retooled in its second season live to see a third. Bye, Up All Night.

  • ToddMurray Sep 22, 2012

    Then this was actually the 3rd re-tooling of the show! Mid-season of season 1, they changed the dynamics of The Ava Show, from an Oprah-type, autonomous venture to someone else suddenly owning the show and a weirdly aloof mystery woman calling all the shots. They never explained that change, either! And they also awkwardly forced Steven Pasquale (of "Rescue Me" fame) into the work environment. It was horrible!

    I want to like this show so bad. There are some genuine, charming, and very funny moments in this show, but they are mostly few and far between (the "giving birth" flashback episode was the standout GEM of season one, an exception they should look at for more inspiration and direction).

    I absolutely missed Missy, as well. Sorry to see her gone. I hoped she would at least show up in the office when they were packing up their goods, but alas, no such luck.

    As for Will Arnett, remember he just split from his wife (Amy Poehler). So perhaps his appearance and performance reflects what was happening in his personal life at the time.

  • soapieaddict23 Sep 22, 2012

    I think I got up to episode 4, but I just never got around to watching more so I guess I wasn't that into the show. It wasn't really funny and I didn't care about the characters. Which sucks because I love Will Arnett, Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph.

  • safibwana Sep 22, 2012

    I dropped this show after season 1. I saw the word "re-tooled" in the title of this article and thought maybe I'd made my mistake; maybe they fixed it all! Okay, gonna go back to pretending it was cancelled now.

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